Cricket: England had to accept the inevitable at the Basin Reserve and will head to Auckland tomorrow for a winner-takes-all final Test against New Zealand.
Captain Alastair Cook was backed into a corner by Cyclone Sandra and had no option but to enforce the follow-on two days ago. Yet he still ended up with a soggy stalemate in the second Test after just 35 overs were possible on day four, and then a long-predicted washout settled the issue.
This was a near mirror image of the draw in Dunedin last week. There, rain wiped out the first day before England suffered an inexplicable first-innings collapse and then battled back with centuries from openers Cook and Nick Compton second time round.
Here, rain held off until the last two days after Compton and this time Jonathan Trott piled up centuries and then, following their 254 all out at the first attempt, it was the hosts’ turn to show resilience.
The upshot is a potential decider at Eden Park, starting on Thursday evening — British time — and both captains appear satisfied with that knife-edge scenario.
“It’s now a one-match Test series,” said Cook. “Let’s hope we’re set fair for five days and we can actually get a result.
“Both sides will just want to play five days in a one-off match — and the best side will win.”
Cook acknowledged England have so far got no more and no less than they have deserved.
“In Dunedin, we were behind the eight-ball because we didn’t bat very well for two sessions,” he said.
“Then we did well to fight and hold on to that game. In this game, we played some really good cricket ... but the weather didn’t allow us to win. I don’t think we’ve been too far off.”
His opposite number Brendon McCullum expressed a similarly rational view, and was enthused too by the enduring possibility of a rare series win against England.
“We dictated the first Test. England held on and showed some fighting qualities — and we held on and showed fighting qualities in this one,” he said.
“Both teams will be reasonably comfortable that it’s 0-0 and it’s all to play for.
“We see it as a great opportunity to clinch a series win against England — which is something we’d all hold very fondly.”